Narrow margin between Romania’s two leading parties ahead of poll

Marcel Gascon

Bucharest, Dec 5 (efe-epa).- Some 19 million Romanians will head to the polls on Sunday – amid strict Covid precautions – to elect members of the parliament from which the new government will emerge. The National Liberal Party (PNL) of the current Prime Minister, Ludovic Orban, is the favorite, although it is only marginally ahead of their Social Democratic opponents.

According to the latest polls, the PNL is expected to get 33 percent of the votes, compared to 30 percent for the opposition Social Democratic Party (PSD), with 17 percent going to the reformist and liberal USR PLUS, which has supported the government without being part of it. Previous surveys gave the PNL between 25 and 28 percent of the votes, the PSD between 21 and 24 percent, and the USR PLUS between 18 and 23 percent.

Only one poll predicts a PSD victory. It was carried out by the pollster IRES, founded by the Social Democratic politician Vasile Dancu, and gives the PSD 35 percent of the vote, compared to 32 percent for the PNL and 16 percent for the USR PLUS.

All these scenarios point to the same outcome: a coalition government led by the PNL that includes the USR PLUS alliance.

It is a result which the president, the PNL ally Klaus Iohannis, has also predicted. He will be in charge of appointing the prime minister, and last week he asked the governing party to prepare to form a coalition with USR PLUS, which would give the executive a solid majority with which to weather the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic has been one of the central themes of the campaign, in which the PNL has seen its wide lead over the PSD crumble in the face of an economic crisis caused by the restrictions on public life.

According to official estimates, Romania will end 2020 with a recession of more than 4 percent and a public deficit above 9 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The opposition has condemned the PNL government for not mass testing in order to be able to apply more strategic measures which the PSD says could have avoided the restrictions that have led to the closure of businesses in important sectors like tourism and nightlife.

The PSD has incorporated two prominent doctors into its lists to give the electorate confidence in its ability to respond to the pandemic.

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